Technologies in Harmony with Nature and People
The Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc., or AIDFI in brevity, was the brainchild of four (4) persons who rose from the ranks of the National Federation of sugar workers (NFSW), a labor organization that focuses on organizing and educating the sugar workers. It was in the heap of the sugar industry downfall and crisis in Negros.
The union went from a farm lot program into the new land reform program and considering its nature of organizing and educating, this program became too big for the union. The four persons wanted to focus on providing basic services to agrarian reform communities through appropriate technologies and agricultural services and therefore started AIDFI as a Non-Government Organization (NGO). AIDFI was established and registered as an NGO on July 4, 1992 with registration no. ENO92000214 at the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The need in the agrarian reform communities was huge since most land reformed areas were situated in mountainous areas, far from government services. Most basic services were absent. AIDFI went into many different programs and projects like organizational support, agricultural support (seeds, fertilizer, and carabao dispersal), sanitation (latrine construction), health (homeopathic medicine making), and daycare.
After realizing that production needs marketing as well, AIDFI went into buying and selling crops produced in the partner associations, like bananas (Balangon) and different root crops. This went on for several years but was very hard to sustain.
Simultaneously with the start of working in and with agrarian reform communities, AIDFI researched, developed, manufactured, and piloted Appropriate Technologies for basic needs: water (different pumps for drinking and irrigation), energy (biogas, hydro, and wind), sanitation (latrines) and agricultural equipment.
In order to survive without outside funding, AIDFI staff engaged in welding jobs, like steel trusses and gates, and even did a complete truck repair for another NGO. In the meantime, contacts were established with small groups and donors. This resulted in some small projects.
Having had previous experience and experiments with a hydraulic ram pump made from concrete at a technical university in Holland, one of the founders introduced the technology to AIDFI. This would become the flagship technology of the Foundation. But it would take the development of different models, numerous tests and installations in the field, and promotion and marketing for the technology to become known.
Having no budget AIDFI started in a small rented storage place (around 20 m2) outside an old roofed open garage that was used as a workshop. In 1998 AIDFI constructed its own building (more like a two-story house) with the lower part as a workshop.
After that AIDFI concentrated on promoting its technologies and more and more interest was generated, especially for the ram pump. At the same time, AIDFI started full-time Research and Development as a result that AIDFI had some 15 technologies ready for fabrication.
In 2004 AIDFI was looking deeper into the problem of the bulky loads of farm products sold at the conventional markets since it was not a sustainable undertaking for both farmers as well as AIDFI. The idea was to find products that could be processed in the community from high volume-low value to low volume-high value. It became essential oil from Lemongrass and the R&D group developed a distiller. Then AIDFI organized some 30 farmers around this concept in the uplands of Brgy. Mambugsay, Cauayan, Negros Occidental into the Mambugsay Essential Oil Producers Association (MEOPA). In 2011 three more communities got into Lemongrass Oil production.
The work on the ram pump started spreading and the technology became well known. The interest was not only local but also international and in 2007 AIDFI installed three systems in Northern Afghanistan. Having perfected its patented ram pump model and working at the same time on the community aspects to make the systems sustainable, the work got awarded and recognized with local and international awards: Ashden Award, BBC World Challenge Award, Energy Globe Award, Ramon Magsaysay Award, DOE First Green E-award, Energy Institute Award, Fr. Neri Satur Award for Environmental Heroism, Ramon Magsaysay Award 2011, Recognition from Bill Clinton, 2015 RELX Environmental Challenge, 3rd Asean Leadership Award in 2017, BPI Sinag 2017. 2019 Globe Future Makers, World Water Challenge 2020, Zayed Sustainability Prize Finalist 2020, GeliaCastillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health, WHO Western Innovation Challenge Winner 2022, Prince Talal Prize 2022, and Good Design Red Awardee 2022.
The awards with documentaries on the internet resulted again in more interest internationally and AIDFI was internally ready to carry our technology transfer of the ram pump. That has now been carried out in Afghanistan, Nepal, Colombia, and Mexico. Also, several units were either installed by AIDFI or just sent to Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, France, Cameroon, and lately Mozambique.
The work of AIDFI in terms of technologies kept expanding. In 2006 it bought a 3000m2 lot and put up an office with a 300m2 shop. The building includes a coffee shop serving its staff and outside customers and serves as Income Generating Project. A year later a Techno Park was established at the back of the garden and all technologies were incorporated into the mini-park which had at its height some 4000 visitors a year. The Park created a lot of interest and became a luxury problem in terms of work.
After winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2011 AIDFI was asked by Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, Inc to help them in their program to meet their international target of returning the water they use to communities. This program is now completely managed by AIDFI and in its 5th year with an average of at least 20 water systems using hydraulic ram pumps supplying drinking water to mostly upland communities. At the end of 2016 already some 123.000 beneficiaries were served with easy access to water.
In 2016 AIDFI started using a newly built shop of 325m2, making the total area now 625m2. It contains many machines from welding, drilling, CAD plasma cutting, lathing, and bending to milling. AIDFI produces now quality ram pumps in ten sizes and can do that in quantity as well. Besides fabrication and installation by its own technicians, it trained other teams in the Philippines which are now installing the AIDFI ram pump model. In 2017 AIDFI started fabricating its first plastic shredder and injection molding. The idea is to use this for recycling plastic caps into gaskets for the ram pump and to sell other units to recycling projects in any part of the country.
AIDFI also owns two cars and four trucks for the transportation of materials and ram pumps throughout the Philippines.
The essential oil program has become sustainable for both beneficiaries as well as AIDFI. The AIDFI building contains a lab for the processing and packing of the oils for shipment to its varied clients. There are now plans for diversification from only Lemongrass to other plants for which there is a market for its oil.